Encompassing everything from the sandy beaches of Ostend to the diamond city of Antwerp and surrounding the Belgian capital of Brussels, Flanders is the perfect choice for a short family break on the continent.
The northern, largely Dutch speaking, portion of Belgium can be reached by our overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge or just an hour’s drive from our Dover to Calais crossing, making it a great option for that hassle-free escape. Besides a rich array of cultural treats, tasty waffles, tempting chocolates and fascinating architecture, you’ll soon discover this region is full of kids’ attractions – so make the most of your half term and check out why we think Flanders should be your next short break destination.
Magnificent Mechelen: Fun Museums and Wildlife
Positioned right in the heart of Flanders, Mechelen is a truly family-friendly city and a perfect base for your trip. This picturesque city is a delight to explore, full of small squares and baroque churches, but it’s the attractions that really put this place on the map. Spark a love for science in your child’s mind by visiting Technopolis, a tech and science experience museum where kids can participate in 350 interactive exhibits that vary from flying a plane to working on a literally hair-raising experiment in the lab.
If you’re looking for a way to travel the world in a single day, head next to Planckendael animal park. This attraction has five sections, each representing one of the continents, and lions, penguins and rhinos are a few highlights of one of the largest animal collections in Europe. Then there’s the Flanders Toy Museum, a great opportunity to take your kids on a tour of toys and games through the ages – and it’s a charming and nostalgic trip down memory lane for adults too.
Beautiful Brussels: Chocolate and Model Parks
With over 20 city parks and more than 90 museums – including the Belgian Comic Strip Centre – there’s certainly lots for families to do in the capital city of Brussels. At the foot of the gleaming Atomium, kids can play giants as they explore the Mini-Europe model park, which features some of the continent’s best known landmarks. Found amidst many of the official EU buildings, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences takes you on a different kind of journey – an adventure through time. Here, you can walk with dinosaurs, retrace the stages of evolution and discover the many past and present creatures that have roamed the planet’s surface.
Once you’ve emerged back into the present day, there is nowhere better to excite the younger ones than with a visit to the sweet-toothed favourite the Choco-Story Chocolate Museum. Here, you can learn all about how the cocoa bean conquered the world, and even taste some of the delicious pralines made right before your eyes by master chocolatiers.
Amazing Antwerp: A World-renowned Zoo and Boat Tours
While Antwerp may be known around the globe as one of the capitals of the diamond industry, there are plenty of local gems that make it fun for the younger explorer too. The Antwerp Zoo was founded in 1843, making it one of Europe’s oldest, and its array of bears, flamingos, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, koalas and kangaroos make for a full day activity.
If you’re looking for something altogether more easy-going, head to the riverfront to enjoy a 90-minute cruise along the scenic River Scheldt and see the ships, containers and bustling activity in Europe’s second largest port. Once back on dry land, you can explore the Red Star Line Museum which tells the story of the millions of Europeans who emigrated to the United States, including some very famous names like Albert Einstein. Kids under 12 get free entry and the interactive exhibits means it’s smooth sailing all day long.
Grand Ghent: Castle and Canals
Described by travel experts Lonely Planet as ‘Belgium’s best kept secret’, this medieval city is a picturesque and fascinating place to explore. One of its greatest draws is right at its heart: Gravensteen Castle, a 12th century fortress with ramparts that provide great views of the city, a spooky dungeon and a chance to let the kids play at being a Belgian knight.
A great way to explore Ghent is on two wheels, especially since the city boasts 250 miles of designated cycling routes. The Green Belt route on the edge of the city is ideal for families, as its trail runs through leafy parks, across meadows and takes in some of the suburb’s most scenic delights.
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